Not so many centuries ago, when I was young and tender I had a special hobby: dreaming worlds. And which is a good way to dream? Drawing. Drawing maps became a little secret passion of mine; developing worlds of fantasy with knights, cavalry charge and long treks beyond the mountains to find the holy plant that would save a kingdom from the black death.
I could even make up the government, flags, laws, and languages -to a point-. It was the merriest of fun for my brothers and me. (Especially me, bossy big brother reporting).
So a few days ago I had this wacky idea: Why not a family fantasy world book? Stories and dreams that can be shared, drawings, poems, games, stories, you name it.
The first few pages could hold a map
We’d start drawing our home in the center. It could be realistic or not. Maybe we want our home to be a palace. Or a dark cave. Or a hut in the middle of the forest. Or a sailing ship. Or an airship. Or even Dracula’s castle. What’s stopping us? It’s our fantasy!
Then we can draw a few locations. Where are the mountains? What about a forest? Or even a mushroom forest with tiny chimpanzees. Do you want a river? Draw it. And don’t forget a wooden submarine. You need a few villages and don’t forget the great city of the king. Maybe you have friends that will want their homes too or the lair of an extra evil monster with six heads and twelve tongues.
Then you can add a few roads. Monsters don’t use roads, so they are safe. But if they get into a forest, there could be bandits inside. Bandits won’t eat you, but they can rob you, if you let them.
Now you need to know who lives in your magical world. You can be yourselves, that is OK, or you can be somebody else. Dad could be a pirate captain or a cabin boy; what about a crocodile for mom? If that’s a bit too strange, she can be the fairy queen or the CEO of Flying Brooms Inc. And what about you? You can even switch characters if you want.
Use a page or half a page for each character. You can draw a portrait of your character and write down stuff like name, strength, powers or if he is allergic to mushrooms.
Now you have the beginning of your own adventure!
That’s all, now it’s just up to you and to your imagination. You can rescue the King, explore the dark forest, go to pirate island and search for treasures or just go picnic with the hobbits, or even visit Narnia. Then play it out. You know how to play, don’t you? It might be raining outside, but your room can be a jungle, or a beach or an alien planet just if you want so.
Write down your adventures.
The game is over, the fun isn’t. Go to your book, and write down what you, your siblings and your friends did or make your big-ones write it down for you. Add pictures if you want. Bit by bit you will fantasy world will be bigger, and better.
Now a section for grown ups.
If you played roleplaying games, and I mean the real games you played on a board with dice, soda and chips, you’d remember what fun it was. Why don’t bring back those memories with your kids? It does not need to be sat around a table, you know. After all, what’s a roleplaying game but imagination plus a few rules to stop the ever classic “I hit you”, “No you didn’t”, “No I did”.
There are a few roleplaying games developed specifically for very young people. I’m sharing with you my two favorites:
I remember the first time I heard about this gem was in Ulster, where I was learning English. This guy practically invented the ebooks, then selling the whole thing in diskettes… do you remember those? Forgotten Futures revolves around the Future as the Victorian “Science Fiction” imagined it.
Yes, that means you can travel to Mars and find it with Martians and canals. Now Forgotten Futures can be read online for free, and even downloaded. It’s shareware so you don’t have to pay unless you actually like it. (If I still remember how shareware works, I bought the old fashioned book version).
Rules are pretty simple, and possible characters include children and dogs. As for the gaming worlds available you have ten different worlds, from Kiplings Airship Utopia to a world of civilized dragons. And of course, our favorite: (from the website)
FORGOTTEN FUTURES VIII FABLES AND FROLICS
FF VIII is based on Victorian children’s fantasy and especially the stories of Edith Nesbit. The collection includes the three “Psammead” novels: Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet, 23 short stories, and a series of autobiographical articles describing Nesbit’s childhood. Role playing includes extensive material on Victorian and Edwardian childhood, magic rules, and various settings for magical campaigns, and three long adventures.
The chief is to feed the imagination.
If you have not understood a word of what I have being saying, if a rule book seems a bit over the top to you, remember this little sentence:
Feed the imagination: Locations, Character, Conflict
That’s all anybody needs to start dreaming or playing out a story, that’s the essential, and everything else just trinkets for our souls.